Former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Wałęsa will face trial in Poland on accusations that he falsely testified not to have signed documents relating to his alleged cooperation with the communist authorities. If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison.
While Wałęsa, now aged 80, is a symbol of opposition to Poland’s communist regime, having led the Solidarity movement that helped topple it, he has also long faced accusations that he previously cooperated with the security services.
Those claims have often been made by conservative figures, including many linked to the Law and Justice (PiS) party that has ruled Poland since 2015. Wałęsa, who is a prominent opponent of PiS, has always denied such claims and suggested that any documents indicating otherwise are forgeries.
The Lech Wałęsa Institute has threatened to sue Poland’s education minister after he said schools should teach that Wałęsa was a communist agent as well as leader of the Solidarity movement that helped bring down the communist regime https://t.co/GEVtB315vH
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 6, 2020
Two years ago, prosecutors – who during PiS’s time in power have been under the authority of prosecutor general and justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro – charged Wałęsa with making false statements when he testified that he did not sign documents agreeing to work with the security services.
Today, they announced that they have filed an indictment, meaning the former president will face trial.
The case in question stems from statements made by Wałęsa in 2016 during an investigation by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a state historical body that also has prosecutorial powers.
The proceedings, in which the former Polish president testified as a witness and was treated as an injured party, were launched after documents carrying his signatures were found in the home archives of former communist interior minister Czesław Kiszczak.
Lech Wałęsa has been charged by prosecutors with making false statements in relation to longstanding claims that, before leading the Solidarity movement which helped bring down communism in Poland, he collaborated with the communist security services https://t.co/MGPl4Gt4nr
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 2, 2021
The documents indicated that Wałęsa, working under the code name Bolek, signed a commitment to collaborate with the communist Security Service (SB), as well as payslips and informant’s notes. The former president had told the media at the time the documents were discovered that they had been falsified.
The purpose of the IPN’s investigation was to verify whether a crime of document forgery had been committed and to identify possible perpetrators. During its course, Wałęsa testified he did not sign the documents.
“After being shown a number of documents…he denied having drafted or signed any of the more than fifty documents shown to him,” a spokesman for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw, Szymon Banna, told news website Onet.
Lech Wałęsa’s rights were violated as a result of the Polish government’s overhaul of the judiciary, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled
It ordered Poland to pay him damages and take steps to address „systemic violations” of judicial independence https://t.co/QAOaTjtQ0F
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 23, 2023
Wałęsa admitted, however, that in the case of one letter found in the file, with handwritten notes and the signature “Lech Wałęsa”, there is a high degree of probability it was his handwriting and signature.
However, the prosecutors found – after comparing the documents from the file with others confirmed as being written and signed by Wałęsa and consulting forensic handwriting experts – that in the case of over 50 documents, Wałęsa’s testimony was false.
“The Institute [of Forensic Research] issued a conclusive assessment stating that the documents from the personal file and the work file of the secret collaborator alias ‘Bolek’ were drawn up by the former president,” said Banna.
“The experts confirmed that he had drawn up or personally signed: a handwritten undertaking to cooperate with the Security Service in December 1970, handwritten receipts for money for information provided to SB officers, as well as more than 30 handwritten informant’s notes,” the spokesman added.
Prokuratura Okręgowa w Warszawie zarzuca byłemu prezydentowi Lechowi Wałęsie składanie fałszywych zeznań w kwietniu 2016 roku podczas przesłuchania w warszawskim oddziale Instytutu pamięci Narodowej.https://t.co/4K8tQsKZmQ
— Portal i.pl (@portal_ipl) November 30, 2023
In response to today’s announcement that he had been indicted, Wałęsa published a statement on Facebook describing the accusations against him as “terrible insults and monstrous lies” that must be disproven “line by line”.
In further remarks to news website Wirtualna Polska, the former president reiterated that he “maintains the documents were forged”. He added that he was not yet sure if he would appear at the trial “because these are not courts [anymore]” – a reference to the PiS government’s overhaul of the judiciary.
Earlier this week, Wałęsa won a case against Poland before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which found that PiS’s judicial reforms had violated Wałęsa’s rights in a case relating to accusations that he collaborated with the communists.
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Main image credit: Radek Bet/Flickr (under CC BY-NC 2.0)
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.